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Volume 50 / Humanities

HISTORY: BRAZIL


RODERICK J. BARMAN, Associate Professor of History, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
JEAN A. BARMAN, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
STEVEN TOPIK, Associate Professor of History, University of California, Irvine

THE WORKS ON BRAZILIAN HISTORY annotated in this volume possess several interesting qualities. From the North American viewpoint, the most significant aspect must be the re-emergence of English-language scholarship after a long hiatus. It is not just the number of monographs produced (15 in all) which is remarkable, since some of the works are translations or adaptations from Portuguese-language originals (item bi 89003009); more significant is the outstanding quality of several that greatly enrich our understanding of Brazil. A second encouraging trend is the number of articles in English published by new scholars who hopefully will complete monographs in coming years.

The causes for the long hiatus from which we are now emerging can be deduced from the study by Russell-Wood (item bi 89002311). The late 1960s, a boom time for academia, was blessed with a generation of particularly innovative and productive scholars, of whom Warren Dean (items bi 89002331 and bi 89002346) is an example. In the difficult times of the 1970s, the new generation of historians of Brazil either did not find positions (particularly the case for specialists in the colonial era) or could not, for a variety of reasons, retain them. The consequence was the decline in English-language publications which has been evident in recent years.

Turning to the works annotated in this volume, studies of high quality have been produced on all periods of Brazilian history, although the bulk of scholarship, especially that in Portuguese, continues to be focused on the present century, particularly the years of the Old Republic (1889-1930). Nonetheless, the colonial period cannot be called a neglected field, in view of the existence of the studies by Cabral de Mello (item bi 89002287), Schalkwijk (item bi 89002320), and Tucci Carneiro (item bi 89002326) and the articles by Metcalf (item bi 89002310) and Rezende (item bi 89002316), among others. However, far too many of the items on the colonial period involve the regurgitation of existing materials on standard subjects or the transcription of archival materials of marginal importance. Imagination and innovation are all too absent.

These weaknesses do not afflict to the same degree the items dealing with the period 1822-89, with the exception of the Farroupilha and the Paraguayan War. The number of notable works also far surpasses that for the colonial period. The books by Karasch (item bi 89002281) and Reis (item bi 89002733) are outstanding contributions to the study of slavery during the Empire, while those by Vilela Santos (item bi 89003004), Silva Dias (item bi 89002865) and Almada (item bi 89002749) also deserve mention. Our understanding of the role of political clans in the 19th century has been enriched, in very different ways, by Levi (item bi 89002348) and Gouvêa (item bi 89002748). Similarly the works by Viotti da Costa (item bi 89003009), Macaulay (item bi 89002752), Topik (item bi 89002352) and Lacombe (item bi 89002396), although in no way resembling each other, do in combination offer interesting insights into the nature of rule in Imperial Brazil and the early Old Republic.

Four successful forays in the domain of political economy should be read: the books by Topik (item bi 89002350) and El-Kareh (item bi 89002744) and the articles by Buescu (item bi 89002838) and Eakin (item bi 89002452). Neither finance nor labor under the Empire has excited much scholarly attention, but the studies done are solid contributions (Levy and Andrade, item bi 89002690, on banking; and Lahmeyer Lobo and Stotz, item bi 89002454, and Libby, item bi 89002751, on labor). In ecological history, a field bound to attract more attention in the coming years, an outstanding pioneer is Dean's study (item bi 89002346) of rubber, which for the first time explains convincingly why plantation production has not succeeded in Brazil.

The centennial of the Republican Revolution of 1889 has given birth to four important studies that reconceptualize the nature of the new regime. Lewin (item bi 89003486) dissects family-based oligarchical politics on the local and provincial levels in Paraíba, Carvalho (item bi 89003457) looks at the authoritarian reality of the formal democracy in Rio, and Queiroz (item bi 89003784) and Janotti (item bi 89003477) give us in-depth studies of the radical (Jacobins) and subversive (monarchical) elements of the 1890s.

The three latter works typify a strong current that seeks to examine the republican urban masses, especially in Rio de Janeiro and S˜ao Paulo (where many of the authors reside). Several ground-breaking efforts use the study of crime as a means for revealing the lives and concerns of the "inarticulate" (Chalhoub, item bi 89003461; Fausto, item bi89-3712; and Huggins, item bi 89003475). Others look at living and working conditions and, to a lesser degree, recreation as in the case of Adamo (item bi 89003207), Hahner (item bi 89003474), Lobo (items bi 89003876 and bi 89002454), Rago (item bi 89003785), and Sesso Júnior (item bi 89003796). Silva (item bi 89003798) scours a newspaper complaint column to extract the grievances of "ordinary people." Interestingly, union movements, strikes and riots are no longer the main vehicles for studying the masses of the old Republic, although Leme (item bi 89003484) and Needell (item bi 89003938) do this well, probably because a more expansive view of workers and their means of resistance and self-definition has developed. The "operariado" and the "proletariado," that is, the working class and lumpen proletariat, are recognized as distinct yet with common problems.

It is primarily in studies of the Vargas years and later, once the Communist Party came to be an important actor, that unions and working class movements are privileged. Several outstanding studies of the Communist Party using European archives have been produced (Canale, items bi 89003453 and bi 89003547; and Zaidan, item bi 89003821). Two studies of strikes under the military dictatorship that should also be noted for their perceptive analyses and interviews with strikers are Araújo (item bi 89003013) and Centro Cultural dos Trabalhadores (item bi 89003460). Economic history, often neglected in the past, is well represented. Van Weid (item bi 89003817) and Suzigan (item bi 89003810) are particularly fine studies on industrialization, while Leff (item bi 89003483), Franco (item bi 89003469), Gomes (item bi 89003472), Bresser Pereira (item bi 89003779) and Mello (item bi 89003932) deal with the state and economic development.

The countryside during the 20th century receives less attention than does urban life. Stolcke (item bi 89003809), Palacios (item bi 89003946) and Wachowicz (item bi 89003816) make important contributions to the study of labor forms and land tenure, but much more needs to be done in this area. The most common investigations of the rural milieu concern European immigration. Although Rosa (item bi 89004081), Salles (item bi 89003788) and Marzano (item bi 89003766) present important insights, most of the monographs noted in this volume are disappointing for their lack of analysis and comparison. Andrews (item bi 89003200) skillfully shows the connections between immigrant and working class issues. The other body of literature concentrating on the countryside examines manifestations of urban violence. Cangaceiro (bandit) studies, with the exception of Soares (item bi 89003804), glorify rather than analyze. Two first-rate studies of Canudos brighten the landscape. Calasans Silva (item bi 89003799) and Levine (item bi 89003873) take different tacks to reveal much about the people and times of this backlands New Jerusalem.

The revival in English-language scholarship, which is clearly going to continue, and the anniversaries of the abolition of slavery and the coming of the Republic, bode well for the study of Brazilian history. Both events have generated conferences and heightened consciousness of the past. Their literary contribution to the field is underway and will make the next volume of HLAS worth anticipating.


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